The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of unions throughout the country. In the south, the labor movement has been reinvigorated with record levels of organizing during pandemic. As the country emerges from the pandemic, they believe this activity will remain high.
One southern labor leader, North Carolina State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillian, discussed the various union victories in the south when she joined the AWF Union Podcast. She also discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated the labor movement nationwide.
Southern union organizing
McMillian said southern workers are finally realizing the power of collective bargaining and are organizing at a record pace. Union insured workers had proper PPE and were better protected than non-union workers throughout the pandemic.
She explained how workers found out their employers did not care about protecting them, but stood to make the largest profit possible. When it came to PPE and other protections, union workers thrived while the rest were basically left to provide for themselves.
Another issue was compensation for their work, as employees found that they could bargain for hazard pay and other pandemic related compensation. McMillan believes this showed non-union workers they could have this too, if they organized. She added that union approval has soared to record highs.
Reinvigorating the labor movement
McMillan hopes that as the pandemic subsides, people will continue to organize. While the pandemic was an unfortunate situation, there were some silver linings such as the uptick in organizing efforts.
She also believes women and racial minorities can lead the way in coming organizing efforts. A union is the perfect way to level the playing field for workers who are discriminated against or who earn less despite having similar qualifications and work duties.